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Health officials won't ID schools affected by COVID-19

Notices have gone out to schools in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody as well as others in Fraser Health but health officials won't be more specific
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s top medical health officer
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s top medical health officer.

B.C. health officials won't identify the schools potentially affected by students' contact with B.C.’s sixth coronavirus virus out of concerns about privacy.

That’s the explanation given Tuesday at a press conference, when Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said health care workers have already been in touch with anyone who has been in close contact with the 30-year-old women who arrived in B.C. from Iran. Identifying the school could make people a target, Henry said.

Last Friday, a bulletin was sent to Tri-City public schools but it did not mention what school or municipality in Fraser Health was under scrutiny for COVID-19 exposure.


Read more about the Tuesday, Feb. 25 press conference here:

Latest cruise passengers in quarantine in B.C.


Dr. Henry made the comments in response to questions from reporters at a press conference in Victoria alongside provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Some reporters said they had heard from parents who are upset that they received information from Fraser Health, whose coverage area includes the Tri-Cities, about the possibility that children in contact with the sixth case may attend a local school but, without knowing which school, they fear for the health of their children who have compromised immune systems.

Henry said health officials need to be cautious about sharing information such as what schools or communities may have been in contact with coronavirus so as not to lose the trust of people who may not admit they are sick because they are afraid they will be targeted.

And while places where measles cases have been found are sometimes identified, Henry said measles are different because the virus hangs in the air longer and people need to be aware they may have been in contact with it.

That’s different from COVID-19, which requires close contact between individuals to spread, she said.

Dr. Henry gave assurances that health workers have been working to identify everyone in contact with the people who tested positively for COVID-19, including B.C.s sixth and seventh cases, to make sure they are cared for and tested.

As fears about a global pandemic grow — and growing numbers of cases in South Korea, Iran and Italy are counted — Henry said provincial health officials are thinking about what to do if the coronavirus is not contained in Canada, although as yet it has shown no signs of rapid, uncontrolled spread.

“What is different [is] if we move to having widespread transmission in countries around the world, in Canada and B.C. we will be talking about plans with our health care system and our partners to insure we have things place.”

However, she wasn’t specific about what those measures might be.

Public messaging, however, will likely be enhanced and Henry said people undertaking international travel should take precautions; they should also monitor themselves and call 811, a local heath care provider or public health information, if experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms.

If you’re sick, stay home, and if you have to miss work, find a way to work from home, she said.

Meanwhile the BC Centre for Disease Control has a lot of information about coronavirus on its website here.